The Rev

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James "The Rev" Sullivan
The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold.JPG
James "The Rev" Sullivan in 2007
Background information
Birth name James Owen Sullivan
Also known as The Rev, Rathead, The Reverend Tholomew Plague
Born (1981-02-09)February 9, 1981
Huntington Beach, California, U.S.
Died December 28, 2009(2009-12-28) (aged 28)
Huntington Beach, California, U.S.
Genres Heavy metal, hard rock, metalcore, progressive metal, avant-garde metal, ska punk
Occupations Musician
Instruments Drums, vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
Years active 1998-2009
Labels Warner Bros., Good Life, Hopeless, Bucktan
Associated acts Avenged Sevenfold, Pinkly Smooth, Brian Haner, Suburban Legends

James Owen Sullivan (February 9, 1981 – December 28, 2009),[1] more commonly known by his stage name The Rev (shortened version of The Reverend Tholomew Plague), was an American musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer and founding member for the American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. The Rev was critically acclaimed for his work on the Avenged Sevenfold albums Waking the Fallen and City of Evil. He was also the lead vocalist/pianist in Pinkly Smooth, a side project where he was known by the name Rathead, with fellow Avenged Sevenfold member and childhood best friend, guitarist Synyster Gates, and he was the drummer for Suburban Legends from 1998 to 1999.


Sullivan grew up and lived in Orange County, CA.[2] He received his first pair of drum sticks at the age of five and own drum set at the age of ten.[3] In high school, he started playing in bands. Before leaving to join Avenged Sevenfold as one of the band's founding members, Sullivan was the drummer for the third wave ska band Suburban Legends. At the age of twenty he recorded his first album with Avenged Sevenfold titled Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. His early influences included Frank Zappa and King Crimson. The Rev said in a Modern Drummer Magazine interview that "I was raised on that stuff as much as rock and metal."[3]

Later in life he was influenced by drummers Vinnie Paul, Mike Portnoy, Dave Lombardo, Lars Ulrich, and Terry Bozzio.[4] He even had a "visual influence", Tommy Lee, on which he commented that "I never thought I'd have one of those."[3] Sullivan had a signature ability called 'the double-ride thing' or as The Rev called it (The Double Octopus), "just for lack of a better definition".[5] 'the double-ride thing' is a technique that can be heard on tracks such as "Almost Easy", "Critical Acclaim", "Crossroads", and "Dancing Dead" in which Sullivan doubles up at a fast tempo between the double bass and ride cymbals.

The Rev was also a vocalist, songwriter, and pianist for Avenged Sevenfold. His piano-playing can be heard on the tracks "Seize the Day", "Fiction", "Save Me" and "Warmness on the Soul". His vocals are featured in Avenged Sevenfold's "The Art Of Subconscious Illusion ", "Unholy Confessions", "Chapter Four", "Remenissions", "Desecrate Through Reverence", "Eternal Rest", "Second Heartbeat", "I Won't See You Tonight Part 2", "Clairvoyant Disease", "And All Things Will End", "Bat Country", "Strength Of The World", "Burn it Down", "M.I.A.", "Critical Acclaim", "Almost Easy", "Scream", "Afterlife", "Gunslinger", "Brompton Cocktail", "Lost", "A Little Piece Of Heaven", "Crossroads", "Flash Of The Blade", "Fiction", and "Save Me". He also wrote the songs "Chapter Four", "Desecrate Through Reverence", "Clairvoyant Disease", "The Wicked End", "Brompton Cocktail","Almost Easy", "A Little Piece of Heaven", "Afterlife", "Fiction", "Welcome to the Family," the piano part of "Save Me", and "Demons". The demo for "Buried Alive" is the only released song by Avenged Sevenfold to feature The Rev on lead vocals.

Avenged Sevenfold also released a demo version of Nightmare, featuring The Rev on an electric drumset and some vocals of his.

At the second annual Revolver Golden God Awards, The Rev won the award for Best Drummer. His family members and Avenged Sevenfold received the honor on his behalf.[6]

In an Ultimate Guitar online reader's poll of the "Top Ten Greatest Drummers of All Time", The Rev made the list at #8, placing higher than Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), and underneath Keith Moon (The Who).

Death and legacy[edit]

The Rev was found dead in his Huntington Beach home on December 28, 2009. Police ruled out foul play and noted his death appeared to be from natural causes. An autopsy performed on December 30, 2009 was inconclusive, but toxicology results revealed to the public in June that he died from an overdose of Oxycodone [1](Percocet), oxymorphone (a metabolite of oxycodone), diazepam (Valium), nordiazepam (a metabolite of diazepam) and alcohol. The coroner noted cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) as a "significant condition" that may have played a role in Sullivan's death.[7]

On January 6, 2010, a private funeral was held for Sullivan, and then he was buried in Huntington Beach, California.[8] Shortly after his death, Avenged Sevenfold dedicated their fifth studio album Nightmare (released that same year) to him, as well as several songs, including "So Far Away", which had been written by band mate (and childhood friend) Synyster Gates; and "Fiction", which The Rev wrote three days before his death.[9][10] M. Shadows and Synyster Gates have stated in an interview to Hard Drive Radio:

[...]The eeriest thing about it is there is a song on the album called "Fiction" (a nickname The Rev gave himself) which started out with the title "Death". And it was the last song The Rev wrote for the album, and when he handed it in, he said, 'That's it, that's the last song for this record'. And then, three days later, he died."[9]

His drum kit is now on display at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.[citation needed] His kit from the 2008 "Taste of Chaos" tour is on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.[11]

A bonus track on Avenged Sevenfold's 2013 album, Hail to the king, called "St James" was written in honour of him and is described as "the light to so far away's dark"


After signing to Warner Bros. Records in 2004, The Rev signed with DW Drums and Sabian cymbals. He originally used the Pacific Drum Percussion (PDP) 805 kit, of which he had a custom signature kit, but later, in 2008, used a full DW Collector's Series Drum set which he started with two bass drums and then added the third which was just for show. He used a wide variety of Sabian cymbals, as well as Evans drum heads and Pro-Mark sticks.[citation needed]


With Suburban Legends[edit]

With Pinkly Smooth[edit]

  • Unfortunate Snort (2001)

With Brian Haner[edit]

  • Cougar Bait (2008)
  • Fistfight at the Wafflehouse (2010)

With Avenged Sevenfold[edit]


  1. ^ a b "MTV Newsroom". 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  2. ^ "Huntington Beach Independent". 2010-02-17. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  3. ^ a b c "''Modern Drummer Magazine Interview Oct. 2006''". Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  4. ^ "January 5, 2010". Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  5. ^ "DRUM! Magazine Interview Nov. 2007". Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  6. ^ "Revolver Golden Gods Awards 2010: The Winners | Latest News". Metal Injection. 2010-04-09. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  7. ^ Jon Wiederhorn. "Avenged Sevenfold Drummer Died of Accidental Overdose". Rolling Stone. 
  8. ^ "The Good Shepherd Cemetery". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  9. ^ a b "Has The New Avenged Sevenfold Album Been Given A Title?". Metal Hammer. May 14, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold: The Rev's Passing Steered Album's Lyrical Direction | Interviews @". Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  11. ^ "Memorabilia". Hard Rock Cafe. Retrieved July 14, 2013.